Participatory Mid Term Review of Business Development Services: Pilot Exercise in ISSIA
Background Evaluation conducted by: Åsa Sildnes, Development Consultant, Context Consult, Norway (Team Leader), Naboth Nuwagira, Mbarara Business Growth Centre,Walusimbi Gelvasio, ISSIA, Grantham Fernando, Strømme Foundation East Africa. Strømme Foundation (SF) as part of the support services within the Micro Finance thematic area and wanting to explore more ways to fulfill its mission of poverty eradication, has seen the need to promote Talent Funding/Business Development Services (TF/BDS), as it is referred to within SF. It recognized that financial services alone was inadequate for enterprise development, but other Business Development Services (BDS) e.g. the need for market information, marketing services, business skills, competencies in design and technical solutions, access to business consultancy and awareness to overcome unfair or rigid regulations which are all areas that can be addressed through TF/BDS. In keeping with the best practices in BDS, SF wanted to explore ways for MFIs' clients to get access to BDS.The Business Development Services programme in ISSIA is a result of a request from the Micro Finance Institution to SF, to help set up business development training for ISSIA's clients, through private sector delivery of training services. A training needs assessment took place in November 2001, while the first pilot training was held in April, the full programme was started in July 2002 after necessary modifications. The midterm review was scheduled for early 2003 in the hope that trainees would have had the opportunity to apply and implement some of the learning into their businesses. Purpose/objective The purposes of the midterm review of ISSIA's BDS experience was to assess the impact of BDS provision to MF clients, to learn more about how such services can be delivered, to learn from the clients on what has been good and what needs to be improved. As little has been done in the past in tailor made BDS for MF clients, the model used is an innovation and needs to be tested for strengths and weaknesses and for future application.The specific purposes of the review were, (a) Assess the appropriateness of the services/training delivered by the Service Provider compared to the needs assessment, (b) Performance of the Service Provider during the period on deliverables, (c) Identify success factors and constraints that impact on the effectiveness of the training to achieve its objectives. (d) Determine the degree to which the pilot exercise can offer a replicable model for SF to promote BDS through its partner MFIs and also offer a model to the micro finance sector in the country. Methodology Six methods were used in getting information: Document review, observations, structured questionnaire, Focus group discussions, Individual interviews and Reference Groups. Key findings i) Overall training programme - The overall feedback from the clients was that the training has been good.ii) The Approach and methodology of the training - The approach including a range of topics seem to be more appropriate. Some topics require more time, but as a brief introduction, it has workediii) Attendance and timeliness - The findings reveal that only 28 out of 38 listed training courses have been held, with a total of 1,010 trainees attendingiv) Training materials and handouts - The training materials have not been distributed to the trainees. The training materials are now being translated to Runyankore: a local language and would be sold to trainees when training commences in the second year i.e. 2003v) Language - Most sessions held in Runyankore, with some in Luganda. There were complaints from trainees about language problems when training took place in Luganda. Their request was that Trainers should be fluent in the local language spoken when the second year commencesvi) Communication - The consultants have related to the clients in a good way, being respectful and helpful. Some participants have continued contact after training to get help e.g. for setting up book keeping templates.vii) Locations - The training has been decentralized to the villages where people live. 28 courses have been conducted at 24 different locations. This has made it easy for the trainees to attend compared to if training took place in a central place in Ibanda townviii) Homogeneity of classes - The formal education level of trainees differed. For most attendants this has worked. Some suggested that training be modified to meet different educational levels.ix) Size of classes - The class size has varied between 8 and 80, with an average of 36. The planning documents indicated to aim for a number of 30. Some participants indicated that the number should not exceed 45 in one classx) Adult learning methodology - These methods were applied, with more interaction, less writing on the board (because of literacy level), and with ample use of examplesxi) Quality of training - The quality has been good. The training curriculum was based according to participants' needs with flexibility to address specific issues raised by participants.xii) Topics raised - The training has been based on the needs assessment carried out prior to planning of the pilot exercise, with adjustments according to feedback from the trainees. The provider has picked up some proposals for changes from the customersxiii) Awareness of market - Namasuba College of Commerce (NCC) has become aware of the market in Ibanda in general and the business services segment in particular. NCC has brought in new services to be delivered at commercial terms to businesses and individuals. Recommendations Local language skills of provider is crucial for success• Private sector delivery of services promote outreach and development of new services• Decentralized training makes it easier for people to attend• Competencies and skills development of MF clients contributes to peoples' empowerment• MFIs provide a good network for mobilization of people for different BDS2• Monitoring of attendance and number of trainings held must be in place in the future• Agreement of a minimum requirement of training sessions attended in order to get a certificate• Trust and transparency of the stakeholders involved is a requirement for further development of the programme• Open and transparent communication within the MFI itself is necessary to promote teamwork and collaboration among the different departments of the MFI• Baseline data sheets to be further developed as a bench mark, to help measure impact on businesses and on people's lives• Participants should be encouraged to define impact and what should be monitored. Comments from the organisation Much of the recommendations from the evaluation were not implemented, the products recommended have not been adjusted to accommodate the recommendations either, and Business Development Services remain a marginal activity. However, Strømme Foundation's partnership with ISSIA continues with wholesale loan funding to increase outreach to more members.